Why the most “liberal” and “progressive” institutions are lacking in diversity and have such large gender gaps?


The Forward is out with its semi-annual survey of Jewish non-profits and it shows that the pay-gap and gender-gap has gotten worse in the last two years. “In 2015, when the Forward last published this survey, 12 women were among the top executives leading large federations, advocacy and service groups. This year, only 11. After years of communal vows to improve, the percentage of women leaders is stuck at below 17%.”

Yet Jewish Americans are among the most liberal and progressive group, if not the most liberal and progressive group, in the United States. The 2013 Pew Survey found that “As a whole, Jews support the Democratic Party over the Republican Party by more than three-to-one: 70% say they are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 22% are Republicans or lean Republican.” On numerous social issues, from support for gay marriage to abortion rights, the Jewish community is an outlier in support, with 76% supporting gay marriage which is more than among Democrats in general and the American left.

And yet, when it comes to institutions these progressives produce a stereotypical mostly male, chauvinist, gaggle of NGOs and non-profits. It isn’t exactly an un-profitable world either, it’s worth $26 billion according to The Forward. A list of salaries at the biggest non profits shows there isn’t even one woman in the top 20. This is the least diverse, most male, group of “non-profits.”

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Screenshot of The Foward‘s 2013 survey

Hollywood is another self-defined “progressive” and left leaning institutions in the United States. Yet it is also surprisingly lacking in diversity. Major male actors out-earn their female counterparts according to a 2017 survey.Nineteen male stars earned $15 million or more in the past year – the names above plus Ryan Reynolds, Matt Damon, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Chris Pratt. Only five women made the same: Stone, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Lawrence, Melissa McCarthy and Mila Kunis.” Like in the non-profit world, Hollywood is dominated by older and often white men. “The pay gap can be attributed to the dominance of action blockbusters and to a dearth of opportunities for older women. In the list of top 10 actresses, the oldest woman is Julia Roberts, 49. All but three of the male top 10 are aged 50 or over.” Similarly, women comprise only 7% of film directors.

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Screenshot of the 2016-2017 Forbes survey published at The Telegraph

Men also do most of the talking in movies. “Of the 7,000 characters studied, nearly 4,900 were men and just over 2,000 were women. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the male characters spoke far more than the female ones did, with 37,000 dialogues involving men and just 15,000 involving women.” What about behind the camera. “About 89% of executive producers of new series airing this season on the four U.S. broadcast networks are white, and 79% are male.”

Journalism, an industry that is also known to lean to the left (only 7% define themselves as Republicans), is also dominated by men who earn more than their female counterparts. Whether at the BBC or Dow Jones, the statistics are not very progressive. A report notes that “Dow Jones & Company made news after it was revealed that, on average, full-time female employees earn less than 85 percent of what their male colleagues make.” US newsrooms also lack diversity. For instance, one study “showed that even in cities such as New York, where Hispanics, blacks and Asians collectively account for 65 percent of the population, The New York Times, was more than 75 percent white.” Additionally a study by the American Society of News Editors found that in 2015 only 12.7 percent of employees at US daily newspapers were minorities. “More than 88 percent of reporters and supervisors were white while 83 percent of videographers were white.”

Men are not merely making more and dominant in these “liberal” areas of America, they are massively dominant, often making up around 90% of the executives and leaders in the most “progressive” spaces. These same spaces are almost exclusively white in a country where minorities are almost the majority. The Baltimore Sun notes “As late as 1950, whites accounted for about 90 percent of the nation’s population, according to U.S. Census figures. But in the past six decades, whites’ share of the overall population has dropped to 61 percent.”

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(Rutgers 2003 survey)

How can it be that when women make up 50% of the population and around 40% of those earning an MBA, they are so disproportionately not represented at the top levels? At Universities, another bastion of progressive ideals, women are less represented in the top ranks, only around 24% of senior positions.

The lack of real diversity in so many places that pretend to be diverse is shocking. It also dovetails with the numerous sexual harassment allegations that have come out since the Weinstein scandal and the “me too” movement began. The list of men accused are concentrated in entertainment, journalism and politics. This has caused some soul searching but it has not led to deeper questions. Peter Beinart writes about his career that when he became editor of The New Republic he changed the male dominated ways there. “I’d like to say that when I became editor, I fundamentally changed all this. But I did not. Yes, I hired women, including for senior editing jobs. Yes, I made some effort to cultivate writers of color. But, for the most part—like all the white, male, Ivy League editors who preceded and succeeded me—I perpetuated the culture in which I had thrived.”

Little has changed really since the 1970s and in some cases there are less women in positions of power and less diversity. The Washington Press corps, for instance, has almost no minorities among its members. Is it just because these organizations don’t practice what they preach? It appears that the problem is deeper, it relates to cultures of chauvinism and entitlement that refuse to change. While lower levels of many industries have been successfully integrated in the US, the upper echelons have not and this is particularly true in certain sectors. Until those groups that seek to encourage “liberal” and “progressive” values actually embody those values in their leadership the public should be wary of the message. as long as the leaders of non-profits are almost exclusively male and the top earners are all men and mostly white, one should not listen to lectures by these groups about “diversity” in wider society.




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